The downtown Colonial Theatre will mark its centennial Thursday, April 12 and has been feting its 100th year since January with free nights of movies from the past century. The series continues this month with films from what many buffs consider the greatest movie year ever — 1939. This being the anniversary month, both screens will offer vintage features Monday evenings, April 9, 16 and 30.

Of course, the opening of the Colonial Theatre is not the only thing that happened on April 12, 1912. Down in Boston, Fenway Park opened its gates for the first time … and the Titanic had begun its maiden transatlantic voyage. On April 9, the Colonial will put aside 1939 for two classic films that depict what happened two days later to the famous White Star Line vessel, in full and in part.

At 7 p.m., the British “A Night to Remember” from 1958 offers dramatic re-enactments drawn from Walter’s Lord’s 1955 book that many still consider the definitive account of the maritime disaster. Vignettes include a famous scene of the ship’s musicians playing “Nearer, My God, to Thee” as the deck begins to tilt. In the Colonial’s other screening room, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” will start at 7:10 p.m. The 1964 bio-musical stars Debbie Reynolds as the title character who, among many other notable life achievements, survived the infamous sinking. Whichever film movie lovers choose to see, they are encouraged to wear their favorite life jackets so a photographer can get a group portrait.

The April 16 program offers a 7/7:10 p.m. choice of 1939 films “The Wizard of Oz” and “Stagecoach,” the latter directed by Maine-native John Ford. On April 30, the choice will be “Gone With the Wind” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” As has been the case for all the 100 Years of Movies screenings, audience members are encouraged to dress for the era … and 1939 is a great time for snappy apparel.

Centennial celebration

The evening of April 12 will offer a free gala evening of cinematic and other treats. A reception will begin at 6 p.m., offering a chance to make a movie star entrance and partake in a number of pre-show activities. Included is a 100th Anniversary Cake Contest. The Colonial will provide tables, plates and forks and even will pay for cake ingredients; call 338-3021 to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime event. After judging and a photo session, everyone will enjoy toasting the Colonial with cake.

Also on tap for the evening is the unveiling of a centennial plaque, accompanied by music, sparklers and speeches. There will be a huge commemorative “card” made out of plywood for everyone to sign, bound for mounting backstage. On the 1947 Dreamland stage, everyone is invited to take advantage of a photo shoot complete with footlights and art deco glam.

Attendees also may view a short documentary, “The John Grant Era,” created especially for the centennial. Grant is the man credited with keeping the Colonial going, working at the theater for 50 of the past 100 years. Other freebies include a 2012 necklace (while supply lasts) and popcorn (“supply will last,” according to organizers).

The anniversary-day celebration will conclude, appropriately enough, with a couple of movies about movies. On one screen, the Colonial will show “Cinema Paradiso,” the Italian love letter to movies and movie houses that won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 1990. On the other screen, Georges Méliès’ 1902 “La voyage dans la lune (A Voyage to the Moon)” will show the fans of “Hugo” what the fuss was all about. The Colonial will be screening the newly restored color version of these seminal 16 minutes, accompanied by a new soundtrack by French electronica duo Air. Classic cartoons from the 1920s will fill out the program.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or